Marine archaeologists found the first wreck at a depth of 10m when local diver Manolis Bardanis from Naxos Diving led them to a reef littered with amphoras and anchors during a search for the island's ancient southern harbours.

The pottery was identified as originating in western Asia Minor during early Roman times, around 2000 years ago.

The team were then shown another reef containing what they identified as three more probable wrecks, ranging over 1000 years, from the 4th century BC to the late Roman period of the 6th century AD. Bricks and roof tiles found among the wreckage could have been cargo or part of the vessels’ superstructure.

Side-scan sonar further indicated the likely presence of four more wrecks laden with amphoras at depths between 50 and 60m, at sites that will be surveyed next year.

The divers also explored the ancient harbour of Panormos and discovered an important but until now unknown anchorage in Sozon Bay. The sites were littered with storage vessels, sailors’ tableware and wine jugs, while anchors made variously of stone, lead and iron indicated that they came from vessels dating between 500 BC and AD 1000.

Sven Ahrens from the Norwegian Maritime Museum in Oslo was co-directing the first and second season of a three-year survey programme with Ekaterini Tagonidou from Greece’s Ephorate of Underwater Antiquities. The project, administered by the Norwegian Institute at Athens, is being carried out using both scuba and freediving with side-scan sonar and 3D photogrammetry, and next year will also employ an ROV.

Naxos was well-known in antiquity as a source of marble for export, and in imperial Roman times lay along an east-west trade route of islands that could provide a degree of shelter for ships under way, and anchorages when sea conditions were bad.

Wheat, wine, olive oil, garum fish sauce, luxury goods, metals and building materials would have been carried in the vessels, some of which were large enough also to carry hundreds of passengers.

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